How results-oriented grants can help fund your BWC program
BWC programs are becoming widespread. Here are a few ways you can fund yours.
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By Sarah Whelan, Senior Grants Writer, for PoliceOne BrandFocus
Body-worn cameras provide enormous benefits to law enforcement. This includes increased transparency and police legitimacy; improved police and citizen behavior; expedited resolution of citizen complaints/lawsuits; evidence for arrest and prosecution; and opportunities for police training.
For all these reasons and with the help of best practices outlined by the Police Executive Research Forum, a growing number of police agencies are seeking to equip their officers with BWCs to improve their delivery of services.
But how do you pay for such systems? Given the widespread demand of BWCs and the problems they resolve, your agency can make a compelling case for funding through results-oriented grants.
Identifying Grant Opportunities
Once your agency has prioritized the acquisition and implementation of body-worn cameras, the next step is to identify a source of funding for them.
Chances are your agency’s budget does not include funding for new technologies, and this situation is unlikely to change in the next fiscal year. To acquire this important technology, your agency should look to grants as a source of funding.
Grant funding may be found at the federal, state, and local levels. You may also consider private and corporate foundations. Sometimes technology needs may be purchased using a single grant, and other times equipment may need to be included as a component of a program grant.
Check with your state’s public safety agency and local foundations for grant opportunities specific to your area. At the federal level, several grant programs might fund the purchase of body-worn cameras for your agency.
The following are descriptions of these federal grant programs.
1. Body-Worn Camera (BWC) Policy and Implementation Program
The Bureau of Justice Assistance offered this grant program in 2015 and 2016 to public law enforcement agencies at state, local, and tribal levels.
This grant supports the implementation of body-worn camera programs to help agencies develop, implement, and evaluate a BWC program as one tool in an agency’s comprehensive problem-solving approach to enhance officer interactions with the public and build community trust.
There are separate grant programs for department with fewer than 25 officers and with 25 or more. Federal funds awarded under this program may not cover more than 50 percent of the total project cost.
The BJA Body-Worn Camera Implementation Toolkit will be a valuable online resource in the preparation of your grant application. It includes lessons learned for implementation, model policies and procedures, and research materials.
To assist grantees, the toolkit consolidates and translates research, promising practices, templates, and tools that have been developed by renowned experts.
2. Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance (JAG) Grant Program
The federal JAG Program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. Only units of local government appearing on the JAG Allocation List are eligible to apply.
It provides states and units of local governments with critical funding necessary to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, court, education, corrections, drug enforcement, crime victims, and technology improvement programs.
Grantees who wish to use JAG funds to purchase BWC equipment, or to implement or enhance BWC programs, must certify that they are the law enforcement agency receiving the BWC funding have policies and procedures in place related to equipment usage, data storage, privacy, victims, access, disclosure, training and more.
A copy of the required BWC certification can be found here, and it is recommended that applicants use the BWC Toolkit to assist in preparation of the application.
3. Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program (BCJI) Competitive Grant
The BCJI Initiative supports data- and research-driven projects to build and enhance the capacity of communities to create comprehensive strategies to address priority crime problems. Only a few grant awards are made through this grant program each year.
Eligible applicants for this Bureau of Justice Assistance grant program are counties, tribes, city/towns, and nonprofits.
To seek BWC funding through the BCJI grant, the BWC equipment must be part of a larger program that involves a consortium of partners to plan or implement a targeted strategy addressing crime. The BCJI Implementation Plan Guidelines will help ensure your proposed program includes all of the required elements.
4. Smart Policing Initiative Grant Program (SPI)
SPI seeks to build upon analysis-driven, evidence-based policing by encouraging agencies to develop effective, economical, and innovative responses to crime in their jurisdictions. Applicants are limited to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
Funded projects must enlist a research partner and focus on implementing innovative problem-solving approaches to chronic crime issues in conjunction with community stakeholder engagement and relationship-building. Body Worn Camera Problem-Solving Demonstration is one of two purpose areas for funding through the SPI.
Keep in mind when preparing your application that priority is given to projects that examine the impact of the implementation of BWCs on citizen complaints, the process and outcome of internal investigations, privacy issues, and community relationships.
In addition, consideration of the cost-benefit ratio of this technology and promising implementation practices are of paramount importance to any law enforcement agency considering its adoption, and may also be addressed by projects proposed under this purpose area.